Transport Trains

Floods wash out rail lines in the UK disrupting holiday travel

Dec 24, 2012 6:39 am

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If you’re not home for the holidays already in the UK, you’re likely where you’re going to be spending the holidays whether you like it or not.

— Jason Clampet

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Simon Pielow  / Flickr.com

Interior of a first-class car on a Great Western train. Simon Pielow / Flickr.com

Travel plans for thousands of Britons were thrown into disarray as flooding damaged or disrupted railway lines operated by seven companies.

The Great Western route between Exeter and Tiverton was closed until Dec. 28 after a deluge washed away ballast, while track further south was hit by a landslip, hindering travel from London Paddington station to tourist towns in Devon and Cornwall.

“First Great Western advises passengers not to attempt travel,” the Association of Train Operating Companies’ National Rail website said. “Flooding is causing disruption and poor road conditions mean that buses are not able to run on many routes.”

Long-distance CrossCountry services were also affected, and FirstGroup Plc suspended trains on local lines to Newquay, Barnstaple and Looe. Elsewhere in the country, East Midlands Trains and First TransPennine reported “major delays” and London Midland, Northern Rail and ScotRail suffered some disruption.

Rail travelers from Paddington faced delays even before reaching western England, with flooding in the Swindon area causing 45-minute diversions. Passengers from London were able to take an alternative route to Exeter from Waterloo station.

Met Office forecasts show rain continuing this afternoon and overnight before abating on Christmas Day.


At Cowley Bridge, between Exeter and Tiverton, the River Creedy burst its banks at its confluence with the Exe and left tracks without ballast. Network Rail erected three water-filled booms to stop water reaching a control box and shorting out signaling for as long as a week, according to its twitter feed.

The Environment Agency website shows the Creedy’s water levels stood at 1.65 meters (5.4 feet) as of 9 a.m. today, versus a norm of no more than 88 centimeters and a recent peak in excess of 3.4 meters on Dec. 22.

“The railway has been seriously damaged there but because of the efforts we’ve made we’re confident that when the flood water does go down it will take us only two or three days to get the line reopened,” Network Rail spokesman Chris Denham said. Diggers are also working on the landslip at Teignmouth and that section could be restored as early as today, he added.

No trains are scheduled to run anywhere in Britain tomorrow and there is a limited service on Dec. 26.

London Heathrow airport’s main rail link to the capital reopened on Dec. 22 after floods damaged line-side transformer equipment, closing the route for 2 1/2 days, including Dec. 21, the busiest day of the Christmas period for Europe’s top hub.

Transport for London said today that the Tube subway service is likely to suffer “significant disruption” on Dec. 26 as the ASLEF train drivers’ union stages a strike over pay awards for working on public holidays.

“We will be running as many trains as possible but some lines may only have a very limited service and some sections will be closed,” TfL said in an e-mailed statement.

Editor: Andrew Noel. To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Jasper in London at cjasper@bloomberg.net. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net.

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